Can funeral rites be denied non-parishioners?

The wife of my cousin expired after a losing battle with breast cancer. She was initally refused a catholic church service and burial. The Parish priest subsequently relented and allowed a church mass but not the burial in a catholic cemetery.

My cousin and his wife are Roman Catholic by birth. They were both born brought up and married in the Catholic Church in India. The two of them became residents in the United Arab Emirates for the past 20 consecutive years. In July 2013, her cancer returned with a vengence and was under treatment ever since in India. She died on 12th March 2013.

During her cancer treatment since July 2013, she was unable to attend church. She died in St. Johns Medical College Hospital (A Catholic Institution)

No Catholic Church in the Bangalore diocese (including the former diocese of her husband (my cousin) allowed a Catholic Mass or Burial. Another cousin who is a Jesuite Priest came to the rescue and we were able to have a beautiful Mass for this lovely lady. We cremated her.

My cousin is so upset with the attitude of the church that he is seriously considering leaving the church altogether.

The Middle East is full of Roman Catholics from India, Sri Lanka, Philippines and from all over the world. Many die either through natural causes, illness or even accidents whose boddies are repatriated to their countries. I wonder how the Church treats such deaths.

Your cousin has every right to be upset. Canon Law treats funerals rites as a right of the Christian faithful. Refusing a funeral is considered a grave matter and can only be denied in extraordinary circumstances (canon 1184).

Can. 1176 §1. Deceased members of the Christian faithful **must **be given ecclesiastical funerals according to the norm of law.

Note the use of the word “must.” Canon law does not use that word lightly.

Furthermore, canon law foresees that some people may die outside of the area of which they are residents:

Can. 1177 §3. If a death occurred outside the person’s own parish, and the body was not transferred to it nor another church legitimately chosen for the funeral rite, the funeral is to be celebrated in the church of the parish where the death occurred unless particular law has designated another church.

The local parish where your cousin’s sister passed away had the canonical obligation to give her the Church’s funeral rites. The Canon Law Society of America states that when someone dies outside their home territory and the body is not returned to to the home parish then “the parish of the territory in which the person died is requried to celebrate the funeral rites…”

Complaint should be made to the local Ordinary and should that not satisfy then complaint should be lodged with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit